Today marks four weeks — four weeks of Russian, four weeks of searching for cream cheese and a toaster, four weeks of washing my hair in a bucket, and four weeks of wondering what the heck is happening. It’s been busy!
Two weekends ago was a long weekend (National Day of Kyrgyz Language, obvs a very important holiday), so fellow Fulbrighter Laura and I decided to conquer the first item on our bucket list: a long distance marshrutka. Marshrutkas are the Kyrgyz version of mini buses. Typically converted Chinese vans with patterned linoleum floor, marshrutkas feature tinted windows and a hell-bent drivers — and, being sinfully cheap, they are the preferred (only?) transport option.
We decided to visit Burana Tower, home of a Kyrgyz legend and some semi-interesting history. Locals believe that a witch cursed a princess to die on her 18th birthday. Her kingly father packaged her away inside Burana tower, and her only visitor was a servant who brought her daily meals. She grew up safe, but alone, within the tower walls. However, despite the king’s best wishes,
Fiona Rapunzel the Kyrgyz princess was killed on her 18th birthday by a little spider hidden in her food. Just wait ’til Hollywood hears about this one!
The real story is somewhat less interesting. Today’s remnants are all that is left of an ancient city founded by the Karakhanids, who were either a type of arachnid or an ancient people. The tower was initially 148 feet, but earthquakes tested the Karakhanids’ ability to build and they came up short (pun intended). Today’s 82 feet remains standing thanks to a large renovation by the Russians in the 1970s. You may be able to see their brickwork in some of the photos. And yes! The tower really does lean. The landscape photo below shows its slant pretty well.
For 60 Som (equivalent to 80 cents) we purchased seats and settled in for the hour-long drive to Tokmok, Burana’s closest city. As you can see in the satellite picture, the tower itself is in some serious farm country.
My favorite part of the whole escapade was the kurgan stelae, or bal-bals. I thought the stone men were tombstones, but my students told me that they are more like memorials. The collection at Burana was brought together as an ethnographic museum.
What lil cutie pies.
I’ve got a lot more to write about — my apartment, my students and teaching, my Fulbright responsibilities, my trip to the mountains — but this will have to do for now. I’ll write soon. Ish.